by Tommy Abbott
If you don’t know already you will soon learn that most families and anglers of high school teams are a special breed of people with lots of love and morals as high as any you will ever encounter in your lifetime.
Although this is a team sport with school teams, understand that when it comes down to it, once again, most individual teams are mostly on their own. They are competing against their teammates so it makes this sport unique in that aspect. In some sports, teams can possibly compete against each other in the postseason, but in fishing, it’s every tournament.
Because of that, staying humble is crucial. Teach them to win with grace and lose with the same grace. Teach them that there is no place for arrogance or self gloating in this sport. They will encounter opportunities to show what they are made of. They will also be presented with opportunities where they will have to deal with situations that test them and their self control.
They could also be faced with their own teammates or other competitors bragging about beating them or demeaning them for a bad day on the water. Try to help them cope with those situations and respond to the situation with a congratulatory response to those who gloat or belittle them. They will have the satisfaction of knowing they did the right thing, and no matter how hard it is for them, congratulating someone who beat them is the right thing to do.
When my team looks a me and tells me that they are happy that one of their teammates won, I know they get it. Especially when they recognize that the team may have struggled some throughout the year, that is the mark of an upstanding young person. My team got it this year, and that makes me more proud of them than anything.
This is something that you will need to think ahead and be prepared for … keeping your team motivated on a tough day.
It’s bound to happen. Everything was perfect, the pattern was on and your team was hitting on all cylinders.
Tournament day gets here, and you draw a bad boat number or something breaks down. You know your fish bite early so you're prepared for that. Know that your team will experience days with a long grind. How you prepare to keep your team motivated is vital to their success. Learn to read their body language and help them refocus.
Because the next cast could bring the big bass or tournament winner. That’s exciting. Its motivating. Pound that into their head daily.
I say this because in my experience fishing, I know that you can catch a big fish on your very first cast, or on your very last. In one Junior Bassmaster tournament two years ago, my son had zeroed almost an entire day and with 30 minutes left to fish we discussed our perpetual plan for situations just like that.
That day, I was able to fish so I picked up our crunch time, go-to bait, made one cast, and caught a small non keeper. The fire was lit inside my son, and he was on a mission. In that 30 minutes, our plan produced just three decent fish. He was happier but still disappointed. On this day, those three fish were such a blessing because with high pressure and bad weather, he came in third. He was floored but excited.
That was the best lesson about perseverance that he ever learned in a boat with me.
To finish this thought, one Saturday after a very long day and only three fish to show for it, my team made a call I would not have made. That was OK, and it’s a learning experience. We wasted about an hour, and I looked at them and without speaking they could read my mind. They said, “Let’s go back to our area we know is holding decent fish.”
I could still read their body language, which wasn’t positive. I was able to fish in this tournament also, but I chose not to compete. I picked up a rod, made a cast and hooked a nice bass. I looked at it, showed it to them and told them, “Y’all sure needed that fish!” I dropped It back in the water telling them “there are fish in this area, and if you work the plan with the baits we know they will bite, you will catch your limit before we leave.”
Game on, and within five minutes, they had their last two fish and took home third place on the day.
Make sure you tell them these things
Keep their eyes constantly scanning their surroundings and ears tuned to what’s going on around them.
Never give up!
Never stop casting.
Tell them to follow their gut, and if it’s working, don’t change. It’s a very common mistake amongst high school anglers to quickly abandon a working pattern with minor distractions.
If it’s not working, follow their instincts and read what the water and fish are telling them. There are signs everywhere pointing in the direction their fishing needs to go.
Go out there and enjoy the greatest sport on earth with your young people.
Hopefully this will help you along your journey.